Friday, September 16, 2016

Race of the Day- Utah Governor

52 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Safe Republican

It does not get much more Republican than Utah, and the GOP dominates the electoral scene, on the statewide level. However, this is an odd year when it comes to the Presidential election. While still expected to win, Presidential candidate Donald Trump is very unpopular in Utah, especially with the contingent of conservative Mormon voters who dislike Trump's bigoted proposals and brash personality.

Nonetheless, there is not expected to be much of a drag down the ticket for other Republican candidates. While non-Mormons, especially in Salt Lake City, are said to be very liberal, the LDS block does continue to hold sway over the politics of the state. It has not elected a Democrat as Governor since 1980, and this year, the contest was basically determined in the Republican primary.

Incumbent Gary Herbert took over the job in the summer of 2009, having served first as the Lt. Governor to the man who had halted his own Gubernatorial ambitions in 2004. Ascending to the job he coveted, Herbert easily won reelection in 2010 and 2014. This year though, he faced what looked like his strongest challenge in the person of Jonathan Johnson, a wealthy Republican businessman who had been the CEO of A generation younger than the incumbent, Johnson captured 55 percent of the vote at the state GOP's state convention in April. An event dominated by conservatives, the convention had ended the reelection campaign of an incumbent GOP Senator not long ago. However, it takes 60 percent of the vote for a nomination to be won outright at the convention, and thus Johnson fell a bit short, and Herbert pressed forward to the June primary.

For whatever reason, be it a much larger turnout, or the endorsement of Utah resident Mitt Romney, the primary was not even close. Herbert turned back Johnson by a 72-28 margin. Most felt the primary would favor the Governor winning, but the margin seemed kind of stunning to some. Now, Herbert is facing another wealthy businessman, in former healthcare CEO Mike Weinholtz. Herbert's November margin over his Democrat opponent will probably look similar to his primary victory margin. One twist to this race is that Weinholtz is not Mormon, which is pretty rare for political candidates in either party in Utah, and that his wife is reportedly under investigation for marijuana possession in the straight laced state. Mrs. Weinholtz claims she uses the drug for medical reasons.

In Utah, candidates run with their choice for Lt. Governor before the primary, and at least in the GOP, before the state convention. Running with Weinholtz is Democrat Kim Bowman. He is an attorney and university executive. On the GOP side, is incumbent Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. Now 41, he became the state's number two after the previous Lt. Governor resigned in 2013, and he was selected by Herbert. Cox has parted with his boss to some degree on one issue. While the Governor has said he is willing to support Trump for President, Cox has been pretty vocal about finding both major party nominees unacceptable and has cited his young children as a reason. Through marriage, he is related to the musical Osmond family and Herbert himself is the father in law of a former American Idol finalist. Utah must come across as similar to a small town at times with all these connections.

Utah is Republican enough that Herbert is all but assured of a second full term and a virtual third term. Hopefully the future of the GOP in Utah will belong to those who reject Trump.

Herbert campaign link:

 Governor races predicted thus far:
7 D (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)
2 R (1, Safe,1 Likely)
Overall predicted thus far: 18 D, 29 R